Professor Alph Edwards
12 September 2018
Writing Exercise 2
“At the Dam” is an essay written by Joan Didion describing her attachment to Hoover Dam. The attachment was developed as a result of a visit to the dam on an afternoon in 1967. Didion is fascinated by the “commonplace” structure and pens down her thoughts of attachment to the dam. Annie Dillard on the other hand was fascinated by a weasel prompting her to write the article “Living Like Weasels. The engaging arguments brought forward in this paper shed light on the two articles going into the minds through their writers to get what was really in their minds and their intentions for writing.
The main argument of Didion’s argument lies in the words, “what it was about the dam that made me think of it at times…” The Hoover dam had been in Didion’s mind since she had visited the dam. Her disturbed thoughts are evidenced by statements such as, “I will be talking to someone in Los Angeles, say, or New York, and suddenly the dam will materialize…. I will be driving down Sunset Boulevard, or about to enter a freeway, and abruptly those power transmission towers will appear before me…”
Didion has often considered the emotional effect attached from the dam to be derived from the fact that it’s, “a monument to a faith since misplaced.” The misplaced faith was attached to American Engineering. However, Didion had to revisit the dam to bury her curiosity since neither history nor the involvement of workers seemed to give her answers. She was accompanied by a guide from the Bureau of Reclamation. She got the chance to see parts which other visitors do not get to see when visiting the dam. Her answer to her nagging thoughts comes when she came out from the belly of the dam. Her connection with the dam comes when she views the star map at the dam. She connects it to her thoughts and finally comes to a conclusion, “Of course that was the image I had seen always… a dynamo finally free of man, splendid at last in its absolute isolation, transmitting power and releasing water to a world where no one is.” At this point of suspense, we believe her thoughts with the dam are finally at peace.
The connections formed between Didion and the dam and Dillard and the Weasel are quite astonishing to the average person. People form connections with other people and minor attachments with material things such as cars and phones. The connections that the two writers talk about are therefore awkward to comprehend. The writers are very connected to the subject matters of their discussion and if possible they would like to be in the minds of their topics. Didion is quite bothered as evidenced by, “Frequently I wonder what is happening at the dam this instant, at this precise intersection of time and space…” Dillard thinks, “What goes on in his brain the rest of the time? What does a weasel think about?”
In conclusion, the writers’ stories show us what it means to have a third eye in life. A dam and a weasel are everyday sights known to man. But it would be worth it if for once we, “might learn something of mindlessness, something of the purity of living in the physical senses and the dignity of living without bias or motive…” just like the dam and the weasel do. It would also be worth it if we took time and appreciated our surroundings and tried to relax from our tiring everyday routines.